Friday, July 25, 2014

Kershaw Joins Koufax as a Hickok Belt Winner - Check Out My Vintage Photo Featuring Koufax Winning Same Award in 1963

Sometimes luck is all about timing.

For instance, I recently won a couple of vintage photographs through RMY Auctions, one of which features Sandy Koufax winning the Hickok Belt for his accomplishments in 1963.  As luck would have it, once that photo arrived in my hands, a press release was issued naming Clayton Kershaw as a monthly winner of the Hickock Belt for June 2014.

How about that, eh?

It's like the cosmos momentarily aligned to give me inspiration for a new blog post.  Or, maybe it's just dumb blind luck.

Anyway, first to the Kershaw announcement. Through voting conducted by a select panel of members of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, they chose Clayton Kershaw as the June 2014 winner of the Hickock Belt. This should come as no surprise since he was clearly the most overwhelming sports athlete in the country last month. Via a press release:
Kershaw's selection as the Hickok Belt Award winner for June 2014 recognizes him as "the best of the best" in professional sports for the month and makes him the sixth candidate eligible to receive the 2014 overall award, joining previous 2014 monthly winners Kevin Durant, Carey Price, Tuukka Rask, Bubba Watson, and Nelson Cruz.
I'm sure you're wondering, what the heck is a Hickock Belt? 

Well... The Hickock Belt was initially founded in 1950, and was known as the S. Rae Hickok Professional Athlete of the Year Award.  It recognizes the top American professional athlete of the year, and they awarded a belt (much like a boxing championship belt) to its winner.  For the next 27 years some of the greatest American athletes were awarded the prize; including Phil Rizzuto, Rocky Marciano, Willie Mays, Ben Hogan and Joe Namath.  Also, a couple of Dodgers have won the award.  Maury Wills won it in 1962, and Sandy Koufax won it twice (1963 and 1965).  Now, after a 36 year hiatus the award returns to honor the countries best.  Unlike in years past, monthly award winners are named with a single annual overall winner named at years end.  You can visit the Hickock Belt website here.

As indicated on the write-up on the reverse of the vintage photo of Sandy Koufax (as seen below);
"Sandy Koufax of the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers tries on the $10,000 jewel-studded Hickock Belt awarded him January 20 as Professional Athlete of the Year."
If you look closely at the vintage photo you'll notice that it is an alligator-skinned belt with a solid gold buckle, a 4 carat diamond and various gemstones.  I have no idea if today's winner receives a similar pricey award.  I get the impression that it is no longer as high-profile and prestigious as it once was.  Still, to be named along with other greats of American sports past is quite an accomplishment.

Congrats, Clayton!

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Hanley's Disgusting 2013 Batting Helmet is on Auction

I still remember last season like it was yesterday.  That excitement and awe still resonates in my mind.  When the Dodgers, shockingly, rattled off a cavalcade of winning unmatched in club history, I thought that this could not be really happening.  Was I living a dream?  Were we all?

Some folks believed that the emergence of Puig and the continued brilliance of Kershaw was the reason for our rise.  I think Hanley Ramirez's powerful right-handed bat, finally healthy, was the final rock that caused the avalanche. 

2013 proved to be unforgettable, and the thing I most remember about Hanley and his season was that pine-tar laden batting helmet that looked like a mixture of snot, feces and chocolate.  It's like it had magically coalesced to insure that all who stared at it too long would be too disgusted to go on.  Opposing catchers were sickened by it, pitchers could not possibly concentrate and umpires were too mesmerized to pay attention.  If not for a careless pitch that knocked Ramirez out for the playoffs, I think that helmet would have taken us to the promised land.

Seriously... I'm not joking!

Anyway, Huggins & Scott Auctions has the real batting helmet Hanley used that season up for sale.  Check it out below.
(Auction Link)

It has all of the gunk, dirt and grime we all remember.  There is even a 2013 Post-Season sticker attached to the back of it.  Go here to check out the auction.  The starting price is steep at $1,500.00.

Via the auction description:
Already a veteran of nine big league seasons, superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez reached his first-ever postseason in 2013 and powered the Dodgers to an NLDS triumph over Atlanta with a home run, six RBI and a .500 batting average. As he posted those astounding numbers in the October spotlight, Ramirez wore this batting helmet. The blue plastic shell features a left ear flap, while an “LA” decal is adhered to the front center. At the back, Ramirez’ number “13” is displayed in white-on-blue decals and accompanied by a “2013 Postseason” logo decal. The interior is home to leather-covered padding (with a “Rawlings” label) affixed along the perimeter, back, crown and ear flap. The outer shell is caked with a generous amount of pine tar, which is photo matched in the October 28, 2013 edition of ESPN Magazine.
Below are more photos of the helmet.  Click any pic to embiggen.

Pic at the very top via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2013.

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Blog Kiosk: 7/25/2014 - Dodger Links - AJ's Bobblehead, Pederson and what to do with Haren

Here's a great vintage pic of former Dodger slugger Raul Mondesi with his son Raul Mondesi Jr. from 1985, pic via @Dodgers_History on twitter.
From the front office to the manager’s office, the Dodgers have faith that Beckett can make the necessary adjustments in the coming weeks and months. The organization does not perceive that his first-half success was a fluke.

Haren is a different story. His next turn in the rotation will almost certainly be skipped, since the Dodgers have off-days today and Monday.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Haren moved before the trade deadline; especially considering he is about 58 innings short (at 180 innings) of his option automatically vesting.

  • Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports writes, "Free Giancarlo Stanton."
  • In honor of the Baseball Hall of Fame's 75th Anniversay and Inducation weekend MLB ballplayers will be wearing the patch on the left on Sunday in its honor, pic via @MLB_PR on twitter.
  • This is both crazy and cool.  Via Nick Schwartz at USA Today, "A Korean baseball team is filling the stadium with robot fans."  There's a video so you can see it in action.
  • Via Extra Mustard at Sports Illustrated, "We pranked a minor league baseball crowd with some free stuff that no one wanted."  There's an funny video at the link above.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

OYO Video Commemorates Puig's 1st Major League Home Run

If you've never heard of OYO then you're missing out.  OYO makes Lego-like figurines of athletes and American sports teams for fans and collectors alike.  They meld the joy of being a sports fan with the childlike fun of playing with toys.... And, what could be better then that?

On their YouTube page they've been producing stop-motion videos featuring their creations, and one of their most recent concoctions features some of Baseball's most memorable home runs.  In fact, one the homers it shows is Yasiel Puig very first Major League dinger.  Even better, it includes actual audio of Vin Scully's enthusiastic call.
"Havana, Cuba has arrived!"
Watch it below.  Unfortunately, you have to watch one of Reggie Jackson's home runs against the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series.  Boo!

Video Link:

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Manny Mota Presented with Roberto Clemente Award for Sports Excellence by NCLR

Dodger legend Manny Mota was honored by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) this past Tuesday at their National Conference Awards Gala in Los Angeles.  He was given the Roberto Clemente Award for Sports Excellence which seeks to award a sports professional who has been dedicated to causes affecting Hispanics.  Past winners include former Raiders coach Tom Flores and ballplayer Minnie Minoso.

Per a NCLR press release:
With his wife, Margarita, Mota founded the Manny Mota International Foundation more than 30 years ago. The foundation’s mission is to provide educational, health and recreational opportunities for underprivileged and disadvantaged youth. Through the Manny Mota Baseball Clinics, youth are taught to build healthy bodies and minds through positive role models and self-discipline through sports. The foundation also provides communities with the tools necessary for improvement and self-reliance. Since 1992, it has held a yearly fundraising event called the Campo de SueƱos (Field of Dreams) Awards Banquet. Proceeds from this event fund a major portion of its humanitarian programs. Mota’s selfless work and that of his family, has received numerous honors. Mota and his family were recognized by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation with the Ray Boone Award as “Baseball’s Family of the Year,” and they were honored at Los Angeles City Hall in 2004 by Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes and Council President Alex Padilla. For his extensive career, Mota, a proud Dominican, was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum during pregame ceremonies at Dodger Stadium in 2003. He also received the Deportista Meritorio, a lifetime achievement award honoring his baseball career and citizenship.
This is no doubt a well-deserved award for a great Dodger.  Check out the Manny Mota International Foundation website here.  You can also follow him on twitter here: @MannyMota11.

Below is a video from the event.  To watch Mota's speech go the the 1hr:44min:50sec mark (01:44:50).  I apologize for not having the video start there, but I couldn't figure that out.
Watch live streaming video from nclrevents at

Video Link:

Pic at the very top via @Javi_NYC on twitter:

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Blog Kiosk: 7/24/2014 - Dodger Links - An Early Peek at Kemp Figurine

Matt Kemp looked pretty good last night.  He walked twice and drove in a run.  Unfortunately, he was still stymied since he didn't get a hit.  Still, his confidence at the plate is apparent, so I remain hopeful he'll return to form.
  • Here's an early peek at the Matt Kemp figurine the Dodgers giving away to fans on Sunday, August 24 on the right.
  • Via Dustin Nosler at Dodgers Digest, "Dodgers’ answer to finding a bat at the deadline: Alex Guerrero."  I couldn't agree more.
  • Via Mark Saxon at, "McGwire on Canseco: 'It's too late.'"
"Mark, to me, when I played with him, I looked up to him," Canseco told reporters. "I idolized him for a lot of reasons -- the guy was on the field, he was off the field. It haunts me till this day that I said those things about him, even though obviously they were true. I could have gone about it a different way and gotten my point across."
It's the gesture most associated with celebration in sports, but few know the story of the high five---from its origins to the professional and personal decline of the man credited with its creation, Glenn Burke.
The 28-year-old stats guru -- dubbed the "Billy Beane of hockey," after the A's general manager -- is jumping to the big leagues after serving in the Ontario Hockey League. In just three seasons, Kubas turned around the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds from worst to first in the Western division, building a team around advanced statistics.
Of course, if you've really been paying attention then you already know that advanced statistics is already a large part of the game.  Just look at the LA Kings.
  • This is the best umpire strike three caller ever!  Really.. Watch it below.  James Kratch at has the story.
"The umpire is 'Eddie the Ump.' He calls games like that all the time and is generally a fun guy to be around. He is one of the reasons the league is a great way to spend Sunday afternoons trying to stay young. He also umpires high school and youth games, but would not bring the act on the road to those games as it may cross a line in those circumstances. But with us, it's enjoyable and brings something new to the game."

Video Link:

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thinking About Former Dodger Dan Bankhead - a 1952 Frostade Baseball Card on Auction

I came across the above card of former Dodger Dan Bankhead and immediately felt compelled to write about him because his career has pertinence today. 

He originally came up to the Dodgers in 1947, just a few months after Jackie, as a pitcher out of the bullpen.  Thus, he became the first African-American pitcher in the Major Leagues.  The above card is a 1952 Parkhurst Frostade card (an Canadian issue) of Bankhead and it is currently available at Greg Bussineau Auctions.  As you can see, he is wearing a Montreal Royals uniform.

Dan Bankhead is a Dodger often forgotten by fans.  He was born into a Baseball family that saw all five sons play in the Negro Leagues.  The oldest brother, Sam, was probably the best of the bunch.  He was named to nine East-West All-Star Teams, played on twenty-five championship teams and became the first African-American coach in the Minor Leagues.  Noted teammates of his included Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.

Middle brother Dan had a strong career in the Negro Leagues, as well.  He played for elite clubs like the Birmingham Black Barons, Chicago American Giants and the Memphis Red Sox, and pitched in three East-West All-Star games.  It is said that he threw a 95-mph fastball, a big curve and a screwball, and was one the best hitting pitchers in the game.  He was also known to be a bit wild on the mound, so control was his kryptonite.

Late in the 1947 season the Dodgers came calling.  They were short on pitching, as a result of trading a pitcher who refused to play with Jackie Robinson - Kirbe Higbe, and scouted the Negro Leagues for a replacement.  So, in late August they came to Memphis and witnessed Dan strike out 11 batters for a victory.  At that point, they decided they had their man and immediately purchased his rights.

The Dodgers sent him straight to Brooklyn, bypassing the minor leagues, and had him pitch his first Major League game on August 26, 1947.  The "can't miss" prospect got shellacked.  He came into the game in relief of Hal Gregg, who himself had been hit hard, and proceeded to give up 8 runs on 10 hits in 3.1 innings of play.  The only good thing about his appearance was that he hit a 2-run home run against Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller in his very first Major League at-bat.

Bankhead pitched better in his remaining three appearances that season, and even appeared in the subsequent World Series that Fall as a pinch runner.  The following two years, though, he was sent to pitch in the Minors; in both Nashua and St. Paul.  In 1950, he found himself back in Brooklyn after a hugely successful year in St. Paul (going 20-6, a 2.35 ERA and league-leading 243 strikeouts).  Unfortunately, he struggled with the team.  He continued to bounce around the Dodgers system a few more years until shoulder problems finally did him in.  Then, he retooled and became an outfielder in the Mexican League.  He would retire from the game in 1966 at the age of 46.

As with any hot prospect who doesn't make good, it's hard to know what exactly made him so ineffective in the Major Leagues.  Maybe the breaks didn't go his way, the pressure was too great or an injury (a shoulder in Bankhead's case) was the real culprit.  Or maybe, it's as simple as it wasn't meant to be.  Whatever the case, Dan Bankhead is a reminder that not every top prospect (make no mistake that Dan was considered a "can't miss".) is destined for stardom.  Sometimes, no oftentimes, it is just the case of our eyes being larger than our stomach.  The case of Dan Bankhead reminds me that we shouldn't be so headstrong about our current prospects.

For a great biography on Dan Bankhead check out Rory Costello's piece at the SABR biography project.  Also, Dr. Layton Revel and Luis Munoz wrote an exhaustive 40+ page paper for the Center for Negro League Baseball Research on the career of his brother, Sam Bankhead, that is worth a read, as well.  Check that out here.

Below are his career statistics, via Baseball Reference:

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Weekend Autograph Opportunities: Kole Calhoun and Mike Brito

Here are this weekends autograph opportunities and events throughout the Southland. As always, be sure to check the Blue Heaven Calendar for other events (a link can always be found on the tab at the top of this page, just left of center), and always confirm with the establishment. Everything is subject to change.  Please email me with any tips about upcoming events in Southern California.  As the rest of the week progresses I'll update this post with other events (if there are any) as I become aware of them.  Also, I don't always list every event below, so be sure to check my Calendar.  I always try to favor free signing events over paying events.  Click on any pic to embiggen.


Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun will be signing autographs at the Cox Solutions Store in Lake Forest on Saturday, July 26th from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM.  Make sure you arrive early. There will be lots of fans lining up to get an autograph. AM830 will be there with great giveaways. Note: It's one autograph per person. No personal photographs with the player. Other restrictions apply.  Go here for information.
Cox Solutions Store
23704 El Toro Rd
Lake Forest, CA

The Radisson Hotel is hosting the Sunday Sports Fest in Uptown Whittier from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The Dodger scout Mike Brito, famous with Dodger fans for signing Bobby Castillo and Fernando Valenzuela, will be signing autographs there from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM.  Go here for information.  I do not know what autograph pricing is at this time. 
Radisson Hotel
7320 Greenleaf Avenue
Whittier, CA 90602 
(562) 945-8511 
Hat Tip: Roberto at Vin Scully is My Homeboy 

Pic of Mike Brito and Fernando Valenzuela above via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2014.


Howie Kendrick will be singing autographs at the Anaheim WSS store on Saturday, July 26th.  The festivities start at 9:00 AM.  I'm not exactly sure when the signing starts but the WSS website appears to indicate it's from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM; which can't be right.  That's just too long.  Go here for more information.
WSS #73 
122-124 Euclid Avenue 
Anaheim, CA 92802 
(310) 715-9300

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Blog Kiosk: 7/23/2014 - Dodger Links - Dodger Loss Hurt Last Night and Dee Collecting Awards

The Dodgers lost a wild one last night against the Pirates, 12 to 7.  There were hit batters, a thrown out pitcher, wild arguments, a bunch of home runs, some timely errors and relievers imploded all around.  For awhile it looked like the Dodgers could pull out a victory, but that was not to be.  If you ask me, the number one thing the Dodgers should to do is improve their bullpen.  This was a winnable game, and they were just not good enough to get the job done.  I think it's about time to have some faith in the kids (i.e. Paco, Dominguez, Garcia, etc.).  Pic above is of Justin Turner getting nailed in the arm, via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2014.

BTW, Josh Beckett was hard on himself when discussing the Dodgers loss, via Ken Gurnick at
"This loss pretty much falls on me," Beckett said. "I put our guys in a bad situation, having to eat innings up that way. I feel I can do a better job making small adjustments and didn't do it today. That's not competing."
Also, Adrian Gonzalez's home run last night was the 250th of his career.  Congrats, Agon!  Now, below are your daily Dodger Links:
  • Here is an early peak at the Zack Greinke bobblehead the Dodgers are giving away to fans on Wednesday, August 20th on the right.
  • Via Jon Weisman at Dodger Insider, "Dee Gordon wins Heart and Hustle Award."
“Dee absolutely deserves this award,” said MLBPAA director of communications Nikki Warner. “He embodies all that the award represents, and his passion for the game is unmatched.”
"It's really tough to take 40 rounds of players every year and put them in your system, because you don't have enough places for them to play," White said. "Then what happens is you start releasing players with only a year, a year and a half in the minor leagues, and that's not a good process either."
  • I look at this as a good omen.  Via a Dodger press release, the Dodgers RBI Jr. Division team, boys ages 13-15, earned a spot in the RBI World Series this past weekend. The RBI World Series will take place on August 6-17 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.  
Winning pitcher Nolan Martinez threw a complete game four-hitter allowing just one earned run. Catcher Brendan Casillas went 3 for 3 with a single, double and triple. Shortstop John Jackson and center fielder Micah Wallette had two hits apiece for Dodgers RBI. Second baseman Jorge Corrales made momentum changing key defensive plays. Three players on the Dodgers RBI Jr. Division All Star Team are defending RBI World Series champs, CJ Fernandezees, Max Sterner and Micah Wallette along with manager Erikk Aldridge.
  • Pedro Guerrero... yes, that guy... made an interesting trade proposal on twitter.  So, what do you think?

  • Via Shawn Anderson at the Hall of Very Good, they are adding three new members: Luis Tiant, Tony Oliva and The San Diego Chicken. 
  • In memorabilia auction news, Keith Olbermann tells all about the plea bargain Bill Mastro has accepted for mail fraud related to his Baseball auction business.  He's the guy who trimmed the T206 Honus Wagner card into a super-mint specimen.  I've purchased several items through Mastro/Legendary Auctions over the years, so I do have a special interest in this case.  Fortunately, I don't believe I've been harmed by shill bidding; although I'm certain I benefited from it (i.e. I had bid too much for an item and immediately had bidders remorse.  A subsequent shill bid, I think, the day of the auction closing saved me from that embarrassing mistake.). 

Video Link:

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Beckett is Back from DL to Pitch Tonight - Dealing with Torn Labrum

Josh Beckett is either a warrior of the godly class, or a reckless fool who is risking a future Baseball career.

As you may know, Josh Beckett was placed on the Disabled List in early July for what had been described as a left hip impingement.  As Mark Saxon at mentioned at the time:
Beckett, 34, has been dealing with intermittent pain in the hip for a couple of weeks, and he felt a twinge while running the bases Sunday in Colorado, leaving the game after pitching five scoreless innings.
Well, Beckett has just been called back up to start tonight's game against Pittsburgh.  At the same time, we are learning more about his current condition, via Evan Petzold at Sports Injury Alert:
Beckett has been dealing with a torn labrum and two cysts in one of his hips. He has recovered from his injury and will start on Tuesday against the Pirates. Beckett believes he will be fine, the injections are helping but we do not know how long that can last until it becomes overwhelming.
Holy Batman, Robin!  So, he's going to tough it out and pitch tonight?  That's a little crazy if you ask me.  I get that his hip is feeling much better, but how long should we expect that to last?  And, at what point does the health and well being of a player trump the teams desire to win.  I get that it's likely Beckett who is going all out to continue to contribute, but at some point a more rational head needs to step in.  A torn anything can't possibly portend to anything but bad news for the immediate future; both on the field and to his quality of life after the game.

The corollary move to Beckett's recall is to send left-handed reliever Paco Rodriguez back down to Albuquerque.  Paco pitched well during his most recent stint with the team.  He had back-to-back scoreless appearances on Friday and Saturday.

Pic at the very top via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2014

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